Tillman Trail November 2013

November 25, 2013

Last Sunday my lovely non-horse-husband agreed to go on a trail ride with me. Rich and Simon get along great, and it made it possible for me to get Poe out on the trails with a rock solid trail pony to guide him. And of course the dogs love any opportunity to run through the woods.

So we loaded up and headed out to National Forest and up Tillman Rd to the Pet Cemetery parking loop. When we got there we noticed a new sign post naming it “Dog Grave”. Interesting.

We headed up the closed fire road behind the cemetery and made a right onto Tillman Trail. Shortly later it split and we turned right toward the Tower.

Up to this point it was a pretty simple ride. Rich and Simon led some, setting a hearty pace bobbing from walk to trot to canter and back. Rich had to stop once to stretch, which Simon found intriguing and Poe found annoying.

We passed some extremely polite cyclists who had a firm grasp of trail protocol. They pulled to the side of the trail and announced a friendly hello well in advance so the horses would be aware of them and pleasantly chatted for a moment as we passed. I have always found cyclists to have impeccable trail etiquette and these fellas were no exception.

As we continued along I kept saying to Rich that the trail had been worked on and was much more pleasant to ride. There were piles of rocks pulled to the side and areas where the larger rocks had been worked down into almost a cobble stone like path. There were still some places the ponies had to climb over or negotiate rocks but nothing treacherous.

Poe was a little uncomfortable at the rougher areas in the beginning, but quickly, like with everything else I have asked I him, he figured it out.

Eventually we came to a tree that had very recently fallen, effectively blocking the trail. It was also very steep above and below the trail so navigating around it was mostly out of the question. We dismounted and rich climbed over it, and was quickly followed by the tank named Simon.

Simon, who is excellent at trail blazing, managed to dislodged a large rock, inevitably opening a large, ankle twisting hole, just on the other side of the tree, making it worse for Poe. Rich and I leveled the area back out before we asked Poe to negotiate the obstacle. And I climbed over first. Poe was rather unsure what he needed to do initially but given a good minute, and a little direction and encouragement, he managed to clear the trail obstruction as well.

At this point the trail was very narrow, not leaving room to get next to your pony for a remount. Rich tried but was unsuccessful and somehow found himself behind Simon. Knowing he is lacking some common horse knowledge I asked, “you still have ahold of your reins, right?” And he said “no, but I have ahold of this strap”, meaning the crupper.

At just about that time Simon broke into a trot, and Rich, holding the crupper, began jogging behind him. But after a few yard Simon began to outpace and left Rich jogging after him.

So picture, riderless Simon trotting along the trail, both dogs happily following at his heels, and Rich jogging after them. I was laughing so hard I was unable speak.

Before too long, Rich stopped and yelled “Simon!” With authority, and Simon immediately stopped, and looked back at Rich with a “what are you doing back there” look. Simon stood with dogs around him, and watched as Rich walked the trail up to collect him. I was still cracking up.

As we neared the tower, there was a split in the trail with a fresh sign, neither of which I recognized. But there were quite a few reroutes in the trail and it had been a while since I had been on this trail.

We came to a particular reroute in the trail that thrilled me. It had originally been pretty dangerous, with some pointy rock ledges, a very narrow path over them, and a tree leaning at an impossible knee killing angle. The new route went through some large boulders with a semi cobblestone path that is an amazing work of nature. It made my imagination tick.

We popped out at the cell phone tower, which has a picnic table placed next to it, and took a short break.

There is a rather long fire road that ends at this tower, that starts out at my favorite trail head off Bear Trap Rd. But for our current loop we just needed to head a short ways down the road and make a right onto Tillman trail west, and back down to Tillman Rd. This is the part of the loop I am less than fond of. It is rather steep down and just not very friendly.

When we got to the trail, we found it was closed and clearly unkept. Where the trail sign had been was a notice announcing the trail had been moved. It was the fork we came to shortly before the tower. So we turned and worked our way back.

This is when Poe decided he was done. Pony with an attitude. He tried a few duck and spins, he spun and he kicked, he bucked and he bulked. But hey, we had a good four plus miles to go, and go we did. He continued to throw little fits every so often, including kicking at the dogs and once he directed a vicious double barrel round at Simon, the whole way back, although he put less and less effort into his attitude.

Simon, of course, continued to be the perfect husband horse he is, and kept up a pretty good pace with Rich riding and taking a break to hike on foot. Simon is such a gem.

The new Tillman west trail is three miles back to the road and is an extremely pleasant switch back and forth ride, never severely steep, with expertly banked turns, drain trenches and rocks cleared. Outstanding improvement that ended with a smooth creek crossing back to the road where new signs announced the trail improvements. Another 1-2 miles up the road and we were ready to load up and head home.

The trail improvements are outstanding. And I thank the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition for their hard work.

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2 Comments

  1. Love it when husbands oblige. I hauled my non-horse husband to Iceland for a 4-day trek. Happy Trails!

    Reply
    • riderofchaos

       /  November 26, 2013

      Wow! I just feel lucky to get a day on the local trails! Good for you!

      Reply

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